P3 hotels: Utilising Sustaining Enterprise Fund to deepen financial fund and improve cashflow

 

With all eyes focused on Brexit, businesses around the country were caught unawares with the onset of Covid-19 earlier this year. But while industries across every sector, both in this country and around the globe, were negatively impacted, some found that their product or service was suddenly very much in demand.

This is true of the software produced by the team at P3 Hotels, headed up by Phelim Pekaar. Established in 2000 as a web design company, in 2009, it focused its attention on hotels and then in 2015, began devoting all its energies to integrating with the Opera reservation system. And last year, had begun rolling out an online check-in system, which, once the pandemic hit, was exactly what every hotel in the industry was looking for.

“After going through many guises and developments, about five years ago, we started working with the Oracle Opera reservation system, which is used by all the largest hotels around the world,” says the company founder. “We built a booking engine on top of that software so guests can book, cancel, modify and manage online. It also facilitates corporate bookings and has a loyalty tool – all of which we brought to the web.

“Thinking about how to further develop our product, I realised that I hate queueing and could never understand why hotels still have this system of standing in line to check-in and check out – guests should be able to just grab a key and go.

“So we developed an online check-in system, trialled it and had it up and running for most of last year, when Covid hit. Then all of a sudden, online check-ins became a buzz word and everyone wanted to be able to check-in and out of their hotel online and wanted to have the hotel experience without touching anything outside of their room.”

Since April of this year, the entrepreneur has been run off his feet, setting up new customers with the system which has made life easier for guests both in this country and in the UK.

“Before the pandemic, we had 14 customers and since then, we have gained 14 more – which is fantastic,” he says. “We hadn’t developed the online checkout last year, but we were about to start it, so we rushed it through very quickly and thanks to an Enterprise Ireland Agile Innovation Fund, we were able to develop it and get it out there. Now we are trying to move forward from a sales and marketing perspective and get more people on board to help us with our new customers.

“We realised a few months ago that things were not going to get back to normal until some time next year so decided to apply for the Sustaining Enterprise Fund (SEF) to give us a deeper financial fund which would help carry us through to April or May of next year. This will be a fantastic help and applying for it is very straightforward, once you get your head around it.”

“Over the years, we have had a lot of support from Enterprise Ireland, all which have been hugely beneficial, but the SEF is really brilliant because we can forward plan as it allows access to the funds now rather than reclaiming it at the end as is the case with some of the other grants. So when we get the funding we can cashflow better, take on more people to help with onboarding new customers and put a buffer fund aside which we can draw on over the next couple of years and I can get back to creating new sales.”

Along with financial aid, Pekaar has also taken part in several programmes which have also been very beneficial.

“I have done a number of programmes with Enterprise Ireland over the years and found them to be very helpful,” he says. “In fact, I was on holiday when I received an email asking if I wanted to take part in the Eurozone For Growth programme and instantly I said ‘I’m in’ as I knew how good it would be.”

The company CEO believes that some of the strategies learned during these courses will be beneficial over the coming months as the effects of Brexit begin to unfold.

“Apart from the negative impact the pandemic has had on my customers, many of whom were looking for a reduction in fees, P3 Hotels has managed well over the past year,” he says. “However, when Covid hit, we put Brexit out of our minds, even though we had spent the past two years worrying about it.

“I hadn’t been focusing on it in recent months and have won a lot of business in the UK recently and nothing ever arose about Brexit as our product is too important to customers because there as no-one over there is doing it. But I do worry as many of our customers have a lot of properties in the UK, so it is something we need to think about.

“I don’t believe our customers in the UK will stop working with us, but they could begin to suffer financially due to Brexit, which will impact us, so we need to take steps towards the Eurozone market – and we will start with Germany as this is something we had been working on before Covid hit.”

So while the future still remains somewhat uncertain, Pekaar believes there is still light on the horizon.

“Before Covid, our plan was to keep developing alongside Oracle Opera who are rolling out a new solution vision, on the back of which would get more work,” he says. “We are continuing to work closely with them – they are recommending us too and that’s starting to take momentum now.

“So for now, our five-year plan is to keep the head down and keep going with that process. Covid is not likely to throw us off track as it’s more like a bump in the road, but once we come out the other side, I worry that everyone will be like dogs out of a trap and sometimes my fear is that I will look back and say that I haven’t done enough to stay ahead.

“I am trying to figure out what I should be doing when the trap door opens – it’s hard to tell but I hope I am prepared enough for the future – and feel that I’m as ready as I can be.”

Enterprise Ireland has a comprehensive suite of supports available for companies at all stages of development, under Sustaining Enterprise Fund and Innovative Start-Up funding, as well as other funding offers.

Find out more about the SEF supports here

Evolve UK Podcast – Local Authorities

Enterprise Ireland’s Evolve UK podcast series shares market insights to help Irish businesses identify opportunities across the UK.

This episode is hosted by Deirdre McPartlin, Enterprise Ireland UK manager in conversation with Brendan Barry, Director, EI Electronics and Steve Trafford, National Sales Manager, AICO.

EI Electronics, one of Ireland’s largest electronics manufacturers, acquired AICO, a market leader in domestic fire and Carbon Monoxide (CO) protection,  and now has almost 1000 employees globally with revenues in the hundreds of millions. EI electronics and AICO joined the podcast to discuss what makes the partnership work and their success over the last 30 years.

 

 

Market Watch UK – Planning for Construction’s recovery webinar

This webinar explores the recommendations made by Construction Leadership Council’s Covid-19 Task Force to secure the future of construction businesses nationwide, while setting the industry on a sustainable path towards recovery.

Enterprise Ireland’s Niamh Kearney, market executive for the UK Construction sector was joined by Simon Rawlinson, member of the Construction Leadership Council and Head of Strategic Research and Insight at Arcadis UK.

For more UK Construction insights click here.

Evolve UK: Establishing a UK presence

The Evolve UK webinar series highlights the opportunities for Irish companies interested in doing business with the UK.

This webinar examines how the establishment of a UK presence demonstrates long-term commitment to the market, providing customers and partners on the ground with the reassurance that your business is accessible at all times.

Hosted by Enterprise Ireland’s UK Manager, Deirdre McPartlin with insights from Gerry Collins, ECOVIS.

Evolve UK – Construction and the impact of Covid-19 webinar

 

This webinar forms part of the Evolve UK Webinar series and outlines the legal and practical considerations for companies operating in the UK Construction sector and the impact of Covid-19.

Hosted by Anne Corr, market advisor for the UK Construction sector and with expert insights from

David Evans, Legal Director of Blake Morgan

Dominic Jones, Legal Director of Blake Morgan

Global Ambition – Industry Insights: Construction webinar


Enterprise Ireland hosted a series of Global Ambition – Industry Insights sector focused webinars to deliver market intelligence on the evolving international export opportunities across global markets.

How the Irish construction sector responds to the rapid change and set of deep-seated implications for international markets will be crucial as the sector now looks to reset and recover, in the wake of Covid-19.

This webinar was hosted by John Hunt, Senior Market Advisor for Construction at Enterprise Ireland, with insights from:

  • Mr Robert Troy T.D. – Minister of State at Dept. of Enterprise, Trade and Employment

  • Professor Roger Flanagan – Professor of Construction Management, University of Reading

  • Mr Richard Joyce, Managing Director Europe, Linesight

Watch the webinar here.

Evolve UK UK water

Evolve UK – The UK Municipal Water webinar

This webinar forms part of the Evolve UK Webinar series and examines the UK Municipal Water industry as the UK emerges from lockdown. Key discussion points include:

  • The £50 billion AMP 7 investment cycle

  • Ofwat’s new £200m innovation fund

  • Irish supply chain on the Enterprise Ireland AMP 7 online push database

Hosted by Enterprise Ireland’s Conor Stone with expert insights from

  • Mark Froggatt, Anglian Water

  • Lee Horrocks, LCH Executive Ltd.

  • Rachel Wright, Ofwat

Evolve UK – Local Authorities webinar

 

This webinar forms part of the Evolve UK Webinar series and gives an insight into  how UK local authorities are developing new ideas and innovative ways of providing services.  With more than £100bn expenditure per year on a wide range of services across the UK, it is an attractive proposition for any supplier.

Hosted by Enterprise Ireland’s Laura Brocklebank with expert insights from Go-Exporting’s Mike Wilson, the webinar will examine:

• Changes in Local Authorities Structure

• Local Authority Funding Update

• Key Investment Areas of councils

Opportunities for Irish suppliers

• Impact of Covid-19 on UK local authorities

Innovating for Recovery: CW Applied Technology

On the first episode in our new series Innovating for Recovery, we are joined by the Managing Director of electronics company CW Applied Technology, John O’Connell. In response to the Covid-19 crisis, CW Applied Technology designed and manufactured a portable Room UV-C Steriliser. 

The portable steriliser is designed for virtually any room that needs air and surface disinfection, including sterile areas, laboratories, unoccupied patient room. On the show, we discuss, the origins of the idea, and its variety of uses, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Evolve UK – New UK importing rules with HMRC – Establishing a UK presence webinar

 

The Evolve UK webinar series highlights the opportunities for Irish companies interested in doing business with the UK.

This webinar examines the upcoming rule changes to importing into the UK with insights from

– Deirdre McPartlin, UK Manager at Enterprise Ireland

– Margaret Whitby, Head of Stakeholder Engagement at BPDG

– Claire Wilson, Stakeholder Engagement at HMRC Customs and Borders unit

– Ruth Potter, Partner at Ecovis

– Gerry Collins, Managing Partner at Ecovis

Access key insights from sectoral experts with the Evolve UK webinar series.

Evolve UK – Food and Drink Manufacturing Report

The UK Food and Drink sector is the largest manufacturing industry in the UK and is worth an estimated  £31.1bn to the economy according to the Food and Drink Federation.

This Evolve UK report provides an

  • overview of the UK Food and Drink Manufacturing sector

  • analysis of the key trends affecting the sector

  • profiles of relevant sub-sectors and regional manufacturing clusters

We also published a sectoral webinar with expert insights provided by Fintan O’Leary, Managing Director, Levercliff. Watch the webinar here.

Companies of every size, from all sectors, are benefiting from the Sustaining Enterprise Fund

As businesses across Ireland prepare to accelerate their recovery from the impact of Covid-19, Enterprise Ireland has seen a significant increase in demand for the Sustaining Enterprise Fund (SEF) Launched in April of this year specifically to help companies negatively impacted by the pandemic, the SEF offers qualifying businesses funding of up to €800,000 consisting of up to €200,000 in non-repayable grants and a further €600,000 in repayable support over five years with a grace period of three years before repayments commence.

“Up to 50pc of the funding can be made up of the non-repayable grant subject to a maximum of €200,000,” says Leo McAdams, Divisional Manager with Enterprise Ireland’s Investment Services Division.

The funding supports the implementation of a Business Sustainment Plan, which must be provided by the company when applying for assistance under the SEF.

“The SEF funding is time-limited, so it is important that businesses apply as soon as possible for the funding they need to stabilise, reset, and accelerate their recovery.”

One business which has already benefited from SEF funding is JC Walsh & Sons, owners of the iconic Connemara Marble brand. The company supplies three key markets – giftware products for the tourism retail sector, jewellery through TV and online retailers such as QVC Channel and The Irish Store, and religious goods including rosary beads to customers in Ireland and the UK.

“Covid-19 came at the worst possible time for us,” says Managing Director Stephen Walsh. “In early March every cent of our working capital was tied up in stock ahead of what everyone expected to be a bumper tourism season. Our customers expect just-in-time delivery, they don’t want to be told their order will be ready in six weeks. It has to be available immediately, so we have to invest in stock at the beginning of each year. The tourism retail business stopped dead, with sales falling by 95pc.”

The collapse in global tourism dealt the business a heavy blow. “Tourism retail here in Ireland is geared towards overseas visitors. There is no real domestic market for it. Fifty per cent of what we produce is exported, with the US being our key market. A lot of our US customers are destination venues and all these places are closed now.”

That saw cashflow drying up as well. “We had no spare money and nothing was coming in. The only game in town really was the TV business, online retailers, and our own retail website. Our religious goods business also held up fairly well in the UK, with customers including Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral.”

The response was swift. “We did a couple of things when Covid hit. We took immediate action and put our staff on the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme and we effectively ran the business by candlelight. We also called Enterprise Ireland.”

The relationship with Enterprise Ireland goes back a long way. “We have been clients since 1963 when my father went on a trade mission to the US with them,” says Walsh. “Enterprise Ireland did three things when we contacted them earlier in the year – they supported us, they encouraged us, and they believed in us. We got an immediate response They appointed a business adviser who did a report confirming that we had a viable business and they then hooked us up with a consultant to write the Business Sustainment Plan.”

The company received €200,000 in SEF funding in late August – €100,000 in a cash grant and €100,000 in a repayable advance. “The beauty of the advance is you don’t have to start repayments until after three years. You can also use the strategic financial plan approved by Enterprise Ireland to leverage bank funding as well. The SEF has given us the cash to support the business and invest in new product development as well as develop our online business. It has kept us afloat and in the game until such time as the tourism retail market resumes. I would encourage other companies to talk to Enterprise Ireland. It’s an organisation that says yes before it says no. They really have their clients’ best interests at heart.”

To be eligible for funding under the SEF companies must be in the manufacturing or internationally traded services sectors, employ more than 10 people and have seen a fall in turnover or expect to see a fall of 15pc, or have experienced significantly increased costs as a result of Covid-19.

“Companies of every size and across all sectors of the economy are benefiting from the SEF,” says Leo McAdams. “The Fund helps Irish businesses to reboot after Covid-19 by providing the finance to stabilise cash flow, adapt operations, and innovate to meet new customer needs. Businesses wishing to accelerate their recovery should contact Enterprise Ireland now.”

Enterprise Ireland has a comprehensive suite of supports available for companies at all stages of development, under Sustaining Enterprise Fund and Innovative Start-Up funding, as well as other funding offers.

Find out more about the SEF supports here